Men and Women

Consumer contract? (Mark 10:1-16)

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Selfie with hairdresser

“Marriage is a long-term binding commitment epitomised in a covenant.” – T.Keller

In Jesus’ day, the institution of marriage had been eroded by the sinfulness of men and women to the point that marriages were discarded for ‘any and every reason’ by some.

As a result, there was a debate amongst various schools of rabbinical teaching as to what God’s will was regarding marriage and divorce with some being very permissive and others taking a stronger view of lasting covenant.

The Pharisees approach Jesus looking to draw Him into their debate, with some seeking to trap or test Him; “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (vs2)

Jesus answers with a question; “What did Moses command you?” (vs3). Here Jesus is referring to Deuteronomy 24:1-4 where Moses gave some regulations for divorce. The Pharisees summarise saying that Moses permitted divorce.

Jesus then teaches them that divorce was never part of God’s original plan for us, but that broken covenants are now part of our sin-wrecked world and human experience because of our hardness of heart (vs5). Jesus explains that Moses wasn’t encouraging divorce, rather regulations regarding divorce became necessary because of sin.

Jesus then teaches those present about God’s original design for marriage:

  1. Marriage is heterosexual (‘God made them male and female’ vs6)
  2. Marriage is supernatural (‘two shall become one flesh’ vs8) (‘what therefore God has joined together’ vs9)
  3. Marriage is a covenant promise (the word is not in this passage but the concept is) that is not to be broken

Jesus’ day seems so similar to our day when it comes to the brokeness of marriage and how far our experiences are often from God’s original purpose. Today, for many, marriage is not considered as the only God-ordained context for all sexual relationships. In addition, marriage itself often resembles a consumer-contract more than a covenant promise.

Consumer-contracts are merely agreements that remain in force as long as both parties feel that their needs/objectives are being met by the other party and any failure to deliver or change of desired objectives is grounds for breaking the contract as it is no longer serving its purpose.

A good example is the ‘relationship’ (consumer-contract) you have with your hairdresser. You like your hairdresser, might even love them, you’re committed to them, you only go to them to do your hair. But that ‘commitment’ is only one bad experience away from being broken. In reality, what is really happening is you’re committed to them as long as they do what you want them to do for you. It is not a relationship, it is a self-serving consumer-contract that hold reserve the right to terminate whenever terminating it serves you.

Although you won’t hear many talking like this about marriage, it is in fact the default for many these days when it comes to marriage, and it was the same in Jesus’ day – that’s how far we are from God’s ideal.

A life-long covenant promise however is what Jesus and all of Scripture reveals is God’s desire for us in marriage. Unsurprisingly, God’s way of covenant promise has incredible benefits for marriages:

1) Covenant makes love deeper because it enables a covenant relationship to grow rather than consumer-contract relationship
2) Covenant creates a cradle of security allowing for true relational vulnerability and allowing for true sacrificial service of one another
3) Covenant creates stability through tough times, and gives you something solid to hold fast to when storms hit
4) Covenant gives freedom as you are not ruled by your feelings anymore, you’re not just a slave to the moment, to impulses, to feelings. You’ve made and keep these promises in-spite of feelings which makes you a truly free person.
5) Covenant provides a reason & a resource to resolve conflicts

A marriage relationship founded on a covenant promise provides the foundation for intimacy, stability, freedom and beauty!

How do you view marriage? Consumer-contract or Covenant-promise?

Which raises a question; “What should you do when your experience doesn’t match up with what you read is God’s will for you in Scripture?”

  • Do you bend your interpretation of Scripture to line up with your experience?
  • Do you begin to disregard Scripture?
  • Or, do you repent if any repentance is needed and ask God to help your life to get restored back a place where it more closely resembles what is His revealed will for you?

Because of the brokeness of our world and our lives due to the fall and due to our sin and the sin of others against us, it is highly likely that your experience of marriage up to the present hasn’t been what God’s intended plan was for you. If that’s your story, may I urge you;

  • To repent and make changes if you have been treating your marriage as a ‘consumer-contract’ rather than as a ‘covenant-promise’.
  • To renew your covenant-promise commitment to your spouse if you’re married.
  • To come and be prayed for to allow God to begin to heal you, if you have broken marriage(s) already.
  • To honour marriage highly if you’re not married or not yet married, and to keep for marriage only, that which God has created for marriage alone (sexual relationships).
  • To repent and make changes if you have been sinning sexually, to come approach leadership so you can be loved and helped to honour God in this area of your life.
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Her in His Image

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I think that many women struggle with themselves: We engage in self-shaming talk and we are hard on ourselves. We feel and carry around guilt and shame even though we don’t really know where it came from. We often feel the need to apologise for who we are, and the way that we are.

Genesis 1:27

so God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

It’s easy for us to hear that we were made in the image of God, but HOW are we as women, made in the image of a God we believe to be masculine? How is she made in the image of Him?

You emotions, your vulnerability, your spirit, your gentleness or your fierceness, your rising and falling, eccentric, reserved self – that is from the image of God. There is no mistake in who you are. There is no mistake in how often you cry, how sensitive you feel, how deeply you are moved by “insignificant” things or how loud and questioning you can be.

Song of Songs 4:7

All of you is beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.

No, no. There is no mistake in who you are.

By Samantha Schreiner

So where has the romance gone?

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Reading the story of how Abraham sent out his servant to find a wife for his beloved son, Isaac, it seems that finding a marriage partner was a very calculated activity.  But it is in fact the opposite!

God knows the desires of our hearts, He knows our personalities and habits.  Only He can perfectly suit two people to each other.  And His choice for Isaac was perfect, because the two of them loved each other dearly.  And what a wise servant, to stay close to God in this pursuit (Gen 24:21)

“The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not.”

I have experienced a very similar story recently when a dear friend of mine’s daughter got married.  And to illustrate how much God is involved in the choosing of a marriage partner even today (as much as, and even more than, He is involved in every part of our lives), let me briefly recap the story to you.

There was a young South African woman who dedicated her life to God and purposed to also trust Him to provide her with a husband.  She set out to get a clear picture in her own mind about the qualities a man should possess to make him a good husband.  She allowed herself to dream of her perfect man, and entrusted these dreams to her Father.

On the other side of the world was a young man who, amidst constant pressure to join the dating game, and constant ridicule for not doing so, trusted God to point out to him whom to marry.  He decided to keep himself pure until that day.

So the young woman went to the other side of the world for a short period of time, attending a course at the very insitution where this young man worked. And sure enough, God pointed out to him that this is the woman whom He has chosen for the young man.  And although the young woman recognised many of the attributes of a good husband in this young man, she had no idea of the conversation between him and God and in due course she returned to South Africa.

Almost despairing, the young man asked God for wisdom in ways to start courting the young woman.  Telling the story in detail astonishes everyone as to how God’s masterplan came together in ways no human being can conceive.

The two of them got to know each other through e-mail and a deep appreciation and love for each other grew in their hearts.  God opened the way for them to get engaged and then married, and they now have a beautiful little girl and another child on its way.

Their lives still speak of God’s miraculous dealings as they move forward in His plan for them.

Are they a unique couple?  Is God really interested in helping young men and women today, find their perfect life partner? YES!

It is not only the old, Biblical story of Isaac and Rebekah, or the recent, modern story of my two young friends above – it can be your story too!

You have entrusted God with your life when you answered “yes” to His call.  Won’t you trust Him and WAIT until He shows you the one He has chosen for you?

by Lise Oosthuizen